Monday, November 28, 2016

Fei Ngo Shan (飛鵝山)

For the first time in my life, I ran 11.5 km in the morning, and then hiked for another 11 km in the afternoon with my wife and our second daughter.  Towards the end, all my toes were hurting.  But it was worth it.  We hiked up Tse Wan Shan and then Fei Ngo Shan.  This was a rare clear day, and the views were fantastic.  

We climbed up Shatin Pass Road and turned to the east.  Along the way, we got a full view of Kowloon.  We saw the old runway at old Kai Tak Airport.  We could even identify the building in Hung Hum where we are living in.  We saw the Stonecutter Island Bridge.  We saw the landmarks on both sides of Victoria Harbour.  We could see Hong Kong Island from end to end.  We could see Green Island off the western tip of Kennedy Town.  

Continuing on Shatin Pass Road towards the east, we got to the junction with Jat’s Incline and Fei Ngo Shan Road.  Since the weather was so good and we were feeling good, we decided to tackle Fei Ngo Shan Road.  Soon we turned towards the north side of Fei Ngo Shan Road and saw Cheung Kwan O (Junk Bay), as far east as the garbage dump. 

At one point, we could see both Junk Bay and Sai Kung at the same time.  

For the first time, I could see the boats moored in Sai Kung, the Islands in the area, and as far as the West Dam of the Hing Island Reservoir.  

Turning our eyes to the north, our daughter pointed out that we could see Tai Po, even the big white statue of Kwun Yum.

There were other interesting sights too. But I have to take a break now.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Maokong (猫空)

Does "Maokong" mean civet cat in the sky?  Or it is simply the sound of the words describing the pothole formations in the area?  

I couldn’t quite figure out.  But the gondola ride was very pleasant and gave us really nice views, even though it was raining lightly.  

Through the see-through glass bottom of the gondola, we could see how we glided over the tree tops, bamboos, …, as well as tea farms.  

Taipei 101 was visible from about 6 kilometres away.

There are many tea houses and restaurants with tea-themed cuisine.  We had some tasty bamboo shoots and deep-fried tea leaves dipped in batter. 

Later we found some bamboo shoots coming out of the ground, and wondered whether those were the same as the ones we ate.  

Maokong is a pleasant place to take a break from the city.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Excellent Beef noodles

My wife and I went looking for a legendary beef noodle shop in Taipei in the rain - it was highly recommended to us.  On the way we saw a crowd milling around in front of a book shop.  We could not help but marvelled at the strong reading culture of Taiwan.  

Upon closer inspection, we realised that the crowd was actually waiting to enter the eatery next-door.  It was not actually our destination.  So we pressed on with our quest for the perfect beef noodle.  

When we finally got there, we were not disappointed.  We ordered one big bowl to share, because we wanted to try some steamed ribs as well.  

After taking our almost half of the contents from the bowl, there were still enough left to fill one stomach.  The beef were tender, flavourful and plentiful.  The noodles were just right.  The soup was clear, tasted of beef, and did not make us thirsty afterwards.  Perhaps the best we have tasted for quite a while. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Taiwanese Church

My wife and I are here in Taipei to attend our nephew’s engagement.  This morning we worship at the church with the newly-engaged couple and both sets of parents.  

The church has two services, one conducted in Taiwanese and another in Mandarin.  We attended the one in Mandarin, but I did take a look at the Bible translated into the Taiwanese dialect.  I noticed that in certain places, it has some similarity with Cantonese.  

The preacher, 張德麟牧師, taught in a university.  He is obviously very familiar with the history of Taiwan.  He used the missionaries' contributions to the development of Taiwan to illustrate the teaching “… you are the salt of the earth, …, the light of the world …”  

One of the missionaries from the United Kingdom paid the rent for 10 years for a church in Taiwan; when he went back to the United Kingdom he could not afford his own house.  Another found that in a certain place most of the new borns were boys.  Upon investigation, he found that many of the girls were thrown out when the parents found that they have given birth to girls.  And these are the lucky ones.  Some of the girls were killed at birth; someone had actually written instructions on how to drown them.  The missionary setup a shelter for those who survived.  He taught me something about the history of Taiwan.  He made the words of the Bible come alive and practically applicable. And he challenged us.  

The preacher asked the congregation to ask ourselves: am I the light of the world?  Am I making the world a better place?  Indeed, am I?

To conclude the worship, we sang one of my favourite hymns: “I keep your word in my heart,  so that I won’t offend you, and I won’t ever be far away from you. …”

Monday, November 14, 2016

車蠔 (spiny oysters)

Coming back from East Dam, I took bus 94 to get to Sai Kung.  Before taking the minibus 1A to get back to Choi Hung, I stopped by the pier and found someone selling a kind of shellfish that I did not recognise immediately.  

They looked like something between oysters and cultivated scallops common at wet markets. The shells are rather rugged and hard  They had to use a hammer to crack the shells.  The meat was sold at HK$ 150 for a pound.  

I think they could be 車蠔 (spiny oysters, thorny oysters).  Or rock scallops.  I am not quite sure. 

My wife stir-fried them.  The meat is tasty but slightly tougher than the cultivated scallops commonly available from wet markets. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

East Dam of High Island Reservoir (萬宜水庫東壩)

The East Dam of the High Island Reservoir is an impressive engineering feat set in beautiful, relatively unspoilt scenery.  But most people go there to see the hexagonal rock columns, particularly the S-shaped ones.  Some hike, many take taxis, I ran.  Specifically, I ran from Pak Tam Chung (北潭涌) to the East Dam, and back.  I have to admit, however, that after 16 kilometres, both my calfs were cramping, and I walked the rest of the way back.  

The north side of the dam is where many of the most interesting columns are.  

The columns are humongous, dwarfing the people gawking at them, myself included. 

The S-shaped columns are at the north side of the base of the dam.  

The lava gushing up the volcano cooled, solidified, shrunk, and fracture into polygonal columns. 

Strong horizontal pressure forced the rock columns to tilt.  Even stronger pressure twisted the rock columns into a S shape.  Finally, unimaginably strong pressure sheared off some of the columns. Wow!

Many of them have now broken off.  

Standing underneath some of them, I was hoping they wouldn’t fall right at that moment. 

On the south side, one can see Po Pin Chau (破邊洲), an island cut off from the land by erosion.  On the inside of the island are more beautiful columns.  But using the camera on my phone from such a distance and angle it is difficult to see them clearly. 

Hong Kong does have some impressive natural sights.  One does not have to go very far to enjoy them.  In the end, my legs cramped; but I am glad I made the effort.  And there are more leisurely ways to go there.  

Monday, November 07, 2016

Discordant Beijing

Over the weekend, I attended a conference on University Social Responsibility in Beijing, a part of the Beijing Forum.  In the 4 days, I barely ventured beyond the hotel and the conference sites. Yet I still managed to encounter disturbingly jarring and incongruous experiences. 

I arrived at an airport which is very modern and reminds me of the Hong Kong airport.  

Yet 2 days later, the infamous smog caused numerous flights to be delayed, and people stranded.  

On the road to the hotel, I passed by a van that belongs to the law courts.  China has all the trappings of law and order.  Yet, as the on-going saga of the swearing-in at the Legislature in Hong Kong and the fresh “interpretation” of the law illustrate so vividly, the law is no more than an instrument of the Party. 

At the prestigious Beijing Forum, politicians, scholars, business leaders, and more discussed civilization, prosperity, social responsibility and more.  

In the mean time, messages pop up on our smartphones touting "services" by beautiful ladies, “legitimate” receipts, and more. 

What kind of country is China?